The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the best camera phones (opens in new tab) of 2022 so far – let’s just get that out of the way. Its camera system is beautifully complete, with four focal lengths covered – ultra-wide, wide, telephoto and super-zoom. Its new ISP also helps it leapfrog the Galaxy S21 Ultra (opens in new tab) when it comes to processing, and even its selfie camera is standout, with some of the best portrait features we’ve seen on a flagship smartphone.
Now we’ve got the camera verdict out of the way, it’s worth noting that the rest of the phone is also exciting. The S22 Ultra also sports a new design, which carries forward much of what we loved about the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (opens in new tab) and brings it into the S-series. It also loads the phone up with a new, more powerful set of internals, improved screen performance, and Samsung’s trademark One UI interface. Perhaps most exciting of all, the S22 Ultra integrates Samsung’s beloved S Pen, and upgrades it, ultimately, making it the newest member of the Note family in all but name.
Costing more than any other mainstream smartphone on the market – not counting the Sony Xperia Pro-I in that mix, the question is this: can its feature-set justify the high price, or is a $1,199 / £1,149 total overkill?
Also see: Samsung Galaxy S22 vs S22 Plus vs S22 Ultra (opens in new tab)
Design and screen(opens in new tab)
If you’ve seen a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra from the front, you’ve seen the S22 Ultra. Both feature virtually edge-to-edge curved screens, QHD+ resolution, flat tops and flat bottoms, and a striking bronze color variant.
As for the back of the phone, unlike the Note 20 Ultra, the S22 Ultra ditches a standalone camera surround in favor of each lens protruding out, each framed by a silver rim.
The screen and back panel of the S22 Ultra have been upgraded to Gorilla Glass Victus Plus, a version of Corning’s glass that’s exclusive to Samsung. Meanwhile, the frame is made of Samsung’s Armour Aluminium.
Just like the Note 20 Ultra and S21 Ultra, the S22 Ultra is a seriously big phone. Its angular sides compound its size, and while that more squared-off screen is great for S Pen annotating, it makes it very noticeable in a palm or pocket.
On the bottom right side of the S22 Ultra is the slot for Samsung’s much-loved S Pen. At the base is a USB-C port and SIM slot, while at the top of the phone is an interruption-free flat top.
The S22 Ultra’s heft is largely thanks to its 6.8-inch screen. The largest of the three S22 phones, its footprint really helps the phone command attention and feel wonderfully immersive, especially matched with Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED 2X technology.(opens in new tab)
Unlike some other 120Hz phones with QHD+ resolution, the S22 Ultra is able to simultaneously showcase high resolutions and refresh rates. The screen also enjoys a few other optimizations over past Galaxies. For starters, there’s Vision Booster, which analyzes the brightness of an image and boosts individual pixels rather than the whole screen to make it easier to see in bright environments.
Even without Vision Booster, the S22 Ultra beams with its 1,750 nits max brightness, making it the brightest display on any mainstream smartphone. While on paper, the refresh rate of 120Hz is nothing new, Samsung has updated the phone with a wider adaptive refresh rate range, so should also save battery when displaying static content. Indeed, the screen looks fantastic day-to-day. It’s a beautiful display to watch content on, combining clarity with image quality.
The S22 Ultra screen’s superpower is the fact it supports S Pen input, upgraded to reduce latency when compared to the Note 20 Ultra – 2.8ms versus 9ms. If you’re a photographer and you don’t think the S Pen is for you, we’d urge you to try it out while using brushes in Lightroom – much less clumsy than a finger. It’s also a great sketching tool, and Samsung’s onboard software also adds plenty of utility, from speedy text selection to translation.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: cameras(opens in new tab)
The Galaxy S22 Ultra brings back much of what we loved about the Galaxy S21 Ultra (opens in new tab). There’s a 108MP main camera at the helm, loaded up with an f/1.8 aperture, Dual Pixel AF, and an 85-degree field of view.
The 12MP ultra-wide camera features an f/2.2 aperture and a 120-degree field of view, though sadly. As for the telephoto setup, there’s a 10MP telephoto camera with an equivalent three times zoom (f/2.4) and another 10MP telephoto camera, this time with a 10 times zoom (f/4.9). Even the front camera is specced out, with its 40MP resolution, f/2.2 aperture and 4K video capture.(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab) (opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
Samsung makes a big deal of its neural processor unit (NPU), specifically for night video. This helps the S22 Ultra do things quicker, and also helps it capture 16-bit multi-frame RAW files, as well as superior night video, an area phones have struggled with since they first boasted video cameras.
To capture 16-bit RAW feature you need to download a new app called Expert Raw from the Galaxy Store. It works across all three lenses, and files are saved as JPEGs and DNGs, so can be edited in Lightroom too.
Group videos and selfies shot on the Galaxy S22 Ultra even benefits from a smart feature that reframes footage, so the rear camera can get up to five people perfectly in the frame, and you can move around your frame while capturing a selfie video, similar to the iPad’s Centre Stage.
In addition to Expert Raw, there are plenty of shooting modes on the S22 Ultra, including Portrait, Photo, Video, Pro, Pro Video, Single Take, Night, Food, Panorama, Super Slow-mo, Slow Motion, Hyperlapse, Portrait Video, and Director’s View.
Camera performance(opens in new tab)
With phones like the Sony Xperia Pro-I (opens in new tab) catering for experts and enthusiasts exclusively with its neutral, classical take on photo processing, Samsung strikes a much more mainstream balance with the S22 Ultra. For starters, having that broad focal range is perfect for novices who want to pinch into a screen all the way, or pros who rely on the prime lens focal lengths.
The automatic mode captures heavily processed images – they’re sharpened, boosted, and literally turn night into day if the phone’s left to its own devices. That said, you can launch Pro Mode or Expert RAW and override Samsung’s zealous processing with ease if you know what you’re doing.
The main camera sounds like a rehash on paper with the same 108MP resolution as found on the S21 Ultra, however, Samsung’s new processing is clearly giving it a glow-up. Photos from the S22 Ultra are more color-accurate and pack more clarity. While oversharpened, this look will likely appeal to most casual smartphone photography fans, and look glorious on the S22 Ultra display.(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
The main camera also captures the best video of the bunch, with its night video in particular impressing. It ramps up exposure too much for our taste, but the footage packs lots of detail. While some camera phones like the Xperia 1 III might capture a pitch-black scene, the S22 Ultra will shoot usable footage with discernable detail.
The ultra-wide camera does the job across lighting conditions in photos, though lacks autofocus, so isn’t able to compete with phones like the Find X3 Pro, with its 50MP, IMX 766 ultra-wide. That said, in bright scenes, its video is wonderfully steady.
As for the zoom cameras, both perform well, especially in bright scenes, but we were most taken aback by the super-zoom telephoto camera, with an equivalent 10x the reach of the main camera – 230mm. Handheld, we were able to capture the clearest moon photo we’ve ever captured on a smartphone.(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
The 230mm camera is also a capable portrait lens for a phone, or you can fire up the phones improved portrait mode, which uses the NPU to capture more accurate background and foreground separation. This works well for faces, with the phone’s front and rear cameras able to capture some flattering, crisp photos, however, is hit and miss for other objects – just like most portrait modes.
With up to 8K video around the back, steady 4K video from the front and back, and super-steady Full HD video capture, the S22 Ultra doesn’t drop the ball with videography. The manual video modes are also excellent, and Portrait Video is surprisingly accurate too.
All these photo and video highlights make the S22 Ultra a real landmark camera phone, just like the S21 Ultra before it.
Additional specs(opens in new tab)
The S22 Ultra brings ample power to the series – the 4nm Exynos 2200 for global markets and Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in the US and China. That’s matched with up to 1TB storage and 12GB RAM.
We reviewed the 256GB storage, 12GB RAM, Exynoss 2200 version of the Ultra, and found that day-to-day tasks were handled smoothly with no slowdown. Interestingly, our phone didn’t benchmark as highly as competing Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 smartphones, and we experienced a few dropped frames when playing Genshin Impact on standard mode. Switching performance mode on helped this. If you’re alarmed by this, we wouldn’t be. Developers likely just need to optimize for the Exynos chip – there’s plenty of raw power inside the Ultra.
While there’s no power brick in the box for charging, the Galaxy S22 Ultra supports up to 45W charging that can be bought separately. It’s also the same fast charger used by the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra.(opens in new tab)
The phone also crams in a large 5000mAh battery – larger than that of the Note 20 Ultra, and the same capacity as last year’s S21 Ultra. Interestingly, the S22 Ultra doesn’t last quite as long as the S21 Ultra, though still makes it through a comfortable day, especially if you dial back the display resolution, keep auto-brightness active, and make sure performance mode is turned off.
The phone ships with One UI 4.1 and Android 12, so runs the latest Google and Samsung software, and Samsung also does more than any manufacturer to bundle in Galaxy-exclusive extras, so you can expect value adds too like 12 months of Disney Plus for new subscribers in the UK, for example.
5G speeds using the Exynos S22 Ultra also matched those of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, with our EE SIM registering download speeds of 250Mbps in a West London borough, which is perfectly respectable.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: verdict(opens in new tab)
The Galaxy S22 Ultra takes everything we loved about the S21 Ultra, combines it with our favorite things the Note 20 Ultra brought to the table, and refines the whole package beautifully. The ultimate gadget lover’s phone, the only thing it doesn’t do is fold.
With its upgraded design and pen experience, superior photography, class-leading zoom, and across-the-board reliable feature set, while it misses out on best-in-class battery life, it does everything at least well.
The Ultra is expensive, more so the even the priciest iPhone. But with significantly more features, a more impressive display, a more complete camera system, and of course that S Pen, for many, the price will likely be justified.
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